Mental Causation

Mental Causation: The Mind-Body Problem

Anthony Dardis
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Mental Causation
    Book Description:

    Two thousand years ago, Lucretius said that everything is atoms in the void; it's physics all the way down. Contemporary physicalism agrees. But if that's so how can we-how can our thoughts, emotions, our values-make anything happen in the physical world?

    This conceptual knot, the mental causation problem, is the core of the mind-body problem, closely connected to the problems of free will, consciousness, and intentionality. Anthony Dardis shows how to unravel the knot. He traces its early appearance in the history of philosophical inquiry, specifically in the work of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and T. H. Huxley. He then develops a metaphysical framework for a theory of causation, laws of nature, and the causal relevance of properties. Using this framework, Dardis explains how macro, or higher level, properties can be causally relevant in the same way that microphysical properties are causally relevant: by their relationship with the laws of nature. Smelling an orange, choosing the orange rather than the cheesecake, reaching for the one on the left instead of the one on the right-mental properties such as these take their place alongside the physical "motor of the world" in making things happen.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51351-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XIII-XVI)
  5. 1 Why Mental Causation?
    (pp. 1-9)

    Why should you care about mental causation? What is it, anyway?

    Stop reading. Look at the cover of this book.

    What just happened? Light reflecting off the page caused changes in your eyes. These changes began a causal process that reached into your brain. This process caused you to understand the words on the page. Your understanding caused you to decide to take up my invitation. This decision, together with your understanding of how to take up my invitation (that is, by exercising your skill in manipulating medium-sized physical objects like books) led—caused—you to close the book and...

  6. 2 Immortality and the Body
    (pp. 10-27)

    Plato and Aristotle were both deeply curious about the mind and its causal relations to the physical world. Neither saw the mental causation problem quite the way we do, since neither conceived of the physical world in quite the way physics does now. But as this chapter will show, their (distinctively different) views lead very naturally to puzzles about how the mind can cause things. Neither view quite makes it past the Scylla of dualism or the Charybdis of monism: dualism takes the soul too far away from physical things to cause them, while monism seems to make all the...

  7. 3 Dualism and Automatism
    (pp. 28-42)

    The mental causation problem became acute in the seventeenth century. Galileo had seen the moons of Jupiter revolving around something other than the center of the universe. Clearly their Aristotelian natures were not drawing them to the center of the stationary earth. Things out there work according to principles that are not sensitive to our sense of the order and moral value of the world. Descartes and other natural philosophers of the seventeenth century argue that all natural phenomena are to be explained on the basis of a very small number principles governing the motions of tiny indivisible bodies (corpuscles)....

  8. 4 Ghosts and Machines
    (pp. 43-62)

    Twentieth-century philosophy of mind is dominated by this question: assuming that everything is physical, where—how—does the mind fit in?

    This chapter briefly surveys the main materialist models of the relation between thought and the physical world: behaviorism, identity, functionalism, anomalous monism, and externalism. I’ll focus on how well the models handle mental causation. The identity theory has the most straightforward response to the problem: if mental properties are identical to causally relevant physical properties, then they are causally relevant. The problem with the identity theory is that mental properties are not identical to physical properties. So we are...

  9. 5 Properties
    (pp. 63-86)

    The mental causation problem is a problem about properties. Mental events are physical events. Physical events cause things because they have the physical properties they do. But mental properties are not identical to physical properties. So—apparently—mental events don’t cause things because they have the mental properties they do.

    To solve this problem it is necessary to investigate how properties and causation go together. We say that one thing causes another in virtue of some of its properties rather than others it has (Shoemaker 1984:206) or because it has some of its properties (and not because it has its...

  10. 6 Causation and Properties
    (pp. 87-112)

    What are we saying when we say that one event causes another “because it has” or “in virtue of” its physical properties? In this chapter I’ll discuss what makes one property causally relevant to another and hence the sort of property in virtue of which one event may cause another. First I establish a link between causation and laws of nature: whenever one particular event, c, causes another particular event, e, c and e have properties C and E, and a law of nature connects those properties. I’ll call this the “cause-law” thesis (Davidson 1995). Then I say that causally...

  11. 7 Sunburn and Fragile Things
    (pp. 113-130)

    In the last chapter I argued that one property is causally relevant to another when the two are linked by the laws of nature. That seemed to leave the mental causation problem as severe as ever—for surely the laws of nature don’t talk about mental properties, do they?

    In chapter 9 I will argue that some mental properties can be causally relevant to other properties. In this chapter, however, I’ll show that some could not possibly be. The problem is that these mental properties are connected by necessity with certain things they must cause (or be caused by); that...

  12. 8 Supervenience and Levels
    (pp. 131-151)

    Our problem is this: mental events are physical events. Physical events cause their effects in virtue of their physical properties. Mental properties are not identical to physical properties. So—it appears—mental events never cause their effects in virtue of their physical properties.

    The issue is about properties: events cause other events in virtue of their microphysical properties but, apparently, never in virtue of their mental properties. Using our terminology, physical properties of events are causally relevant to physical properties of their effects, but mental properties, apparently, aren’t ever causally relevant to anything. This is because properties are related by...

  13. 9 The Causal Relevance of Mental Properties
    (pp. 152-176)

    In chapter 8 I showed that causation in virtue of (supervenient, irreducible) mental properties would not be too much, or overdetermined causation. But I didn’t show that mental properties can meet the gold standard that physical properties meet, namely, being linked by the laws of nature (chap. 6). That is the task of the present chapter: to give a positive account of the causal relevance of mental (and other higher-level) properties.

    Here’s the broad outline of the solution. What seems to disconnect mental (and other higher-level) properties from laws of nature, and causal relevance, is exceptions. If I want a...

  14. References
    (pp. 177-188)
  15. Index
    (pp. 189-196)